“As a varsity athlete in [the] NCAA, I used to be a hurdler, doing 110-meter hurdles,” Mark Basa says. The tall, lanky 27-year-old BS Tourism graduate from Perpetual University is a natural athlete whose father is a track and field coach. He is also an active mountaineering enthusiast.

Aside from his architectural office supplies business, this enterprising entrepreneur is into exotic endeavors too. “You know what? Having my exotic pets gives me a new high,” he shares.

Mark is one of the participants at the Reptile X exhibition, a sidelight of the World Gamefowl Expo at the World Trade Center.

“I’m a dog person. I don’t like cats. Malandi eh (They’re finicky),” he laughs. His observation is something with which many feline lovers will surely disagree. “I’m not superstitious but I’m not into turtles and birds too,” he adds.

His eyes light up as he proudly shows off his black and white question mark cockroach. It has this unique question mark-like design on its back, hence the name. (Author’s note: We featured the question mark cockroach in our September 2015 issue; you can contact our Circulation Department at 02.527.8121 for back issues.) Unlike most people who squirm at the mere sight of cockroaches, Mark gently let his question mark roach crawl on his lean forearm up to his weather-beaten biceps. “I sell a pair of this unique cockroach for one thousand pesos,” he says.

He also has a number of tarantulas, scorpions, lizards, and snakes at home. “Taking care of them is my stress reliever. May gastos rin pero nababawi rin (I spend on them but I can recoup this). I spend R5,000 for lighting my lizards. They need artificial sunlight. On the average I can easily earn R15,000 a month doing business online through my Facebook [account]. I sell my [scorpions] for R1,300. But money is not my prime motivation in breeding my exotic pets. Simply [put], I love animals. In fact I’m working on my masteral thesis about wildlife and sustainable tourism,” he explains.

It is said that out of 4,000 species worldwide, there are a dozen cockroaches that are considered pests. No doubt these species are the ones people wallop with their slippers! Or the ones people spray with insecticide. Save for the uniform body shape, cockroaches come in a variety of colors and patterns. The minute difference in tints and markings makes each individual species interesting and fascinating.

Unlike a cuddly pet dog, exotic pets like the question mark cockroach will not learn to recognize their owners. But despite the absence of interaction with this cute crawler, it can give anyone countless hours of fascinating observation. “Nawawala stress ko pag tinitingnan ko mga alaga ko (My stress disappears when I look at my charges),” Mark smiles.

“My tarantulas are comparatively delicate compared to the cockroaches,” he says. Curiously, the exoskeleton of the abdomen of tarantula is relatively thin. They bleed to death if dropped, unlike the cockroaches, which are sturdier. Some rarer species can live up to 10 to 15 years. Scientists believe cockroaches can even survive a nuclear holocaust!

As a parting shot, Mark advises, “Whatever animal you keep, be a responsible pet owner. Specifically for exotic pet lovers, follow the government laws [governing] legal pet keeping.” The mountaineer and ecology advocate in him adds the cliché, “Take pictures, take your trash, and leave only your footprints.”

For some people, cockroaches are pests, but for Mark, his cockroaches will always be exotic pets.

 

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s June 2017 issue.